Time for another in my continuing saga of why you need to get a lot of vitamin D. While previous studies have found evidence that higher vitamin D concentrations reduce the risk of death Johns Hopkins researchers think their new study is a big and sufficiently well controlled study to finally feel confident that vitamin D cuts death rates.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins are reporting what is believed to be the most conclusive evidence to date that inadequate levels of vitamin D, obtained from milk, fortified cereals and exposure to sunlight, lead to substantially increased risk of death.
In a study set to appear in the Archives of Internal Medicine online Aug. 11, the Johns Hopkins team analyzed a diverse sample of 13,000 initially healthy men and women participating in an ongoing national health survey and compared the risk of death between those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D to those with higher amounts. An unhealthy deficiency, experts say, is considered blood levels of 17.8 nanograms per milliliter or lower.
Of the 1,800 study participants known to have died by Dec. 31, 2000, nearly 700 died from some form of heart disease, with 400 of these being deficient in vitamin D. This translates overall to an estimated 26 percent increased risk of any death, though the number of deaths from heart disease alone was not large enough to meet scientific criteria to resolve that it was due to low vitamin D levels.
Yet, researchers say it does highlight a trend, with other studies linking shortages of vitamin D to increased rates of breast cancer and depression in the elderly. And earlier published findings by the team, from the same national study, have established a possible tie-in, showing an 80 percent increased risk of peripheral artery disease from vitamin D deficits.
Breast cancer, depression, and peripheral artery disease should be on everyone's list of things to avoid.
Hey, they did a big study and have clearer results than other studies. So they are bragging. But they deserve to brag. So why not?
Researchers note that other studies in the last year or so in animals and humans have identified a connection between low levels of vitamin D and heart disease. But these studies, they say, were weakened by small sample numbers, lack of diversity in the population studied and other factors that limited scientists' ability to generalize the findings to the public at large.
"Our results make it much more clear that all men and women concerned about their overall health should more closely monitor their blood levels of vitamin D, and make sure they have enough," says study co-lead investigator Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S.
Small amounts of sunlight can make the difference. Though in winter better think about taking a vitamin D pill. Your benefit probably tops out at 2000 IU per day. Though only a blood test would tell you whether you are at the 50 nanograms per milliliter concentration at which benefit is maximized.
Aware of the cancer risks linked to too much time spent in the sun, she says as little as 10 to 15 minutes of daily exposure to the sun can produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D to sustain health. The hormone-like nutrient controls blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, essential chemicals in the body.
If vitamin supplements are used, Michos says there is no evidence that more than 2,000 international units per day do any good. Study results show that heart disease death rates flattened out in participants with the highest vitamin D levels (above 50 nanograms per milliliter of blood), signaling a possible loss of the vitamin's protective effects at too-high doses.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine suggests that an adequate daily intake of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (or blood levels nearing 30 nanograms per milliliter). Previous results from the same nationwide survey showed that 41 percent of men and 53 percent of women are technically deficient in the nutrient, with vitamin D levels below 28 nanograms per milliliter.
Are you still not taking vitamin D? If not, what's your problem? Secret death wish? A feeling of futility? Or maybe you are one of those rare people who like having doctors fuss all over you? In that case it is safer to use fake symptoms. So take the vitamin D anyhow.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 August 11 11:06 PM Aging Diet Studies|